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1. Generally

This new law review article by Daniel Epps examine the subject in depth. Consider this excerpt from the abstract: Judges and commentators sharply disagree about which (and even whether) constitutional errors can be harmless, how to conduct harmless-error when it  analysis applies, and, most fundamentally, what harmless constitutional error even is-what source of law generates… Read More

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How to beat the “harmless error” rap

For the 2015 SPD conference, Judge Sankovitz and Attorneys Rob Henak and Melinda Swartz prepared an excellent outline on a problem that plagues many defense lawyers on appeal.  They have a great issue. They win it, but then the court of appeals or supreme court finds the error harmless.  This detailed, well-researched outline walks you… Read More

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State v. Richard Harrison, 2015 WI 5, 1/22/15, affirming a summary disposition of the court of appeals; opinion by Chief Justice Abrahamson; case activity The supreme court unanimously holds that a circuit judge erred by presiding over Harrison’s trial, sentencing, and postconviction motions after Harrison filed a timely and proper § 971.20 request for substitution of the judge, the request was… Read More

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State v. Randy L. Martin, 2012 WI 96, reversing unpublished decision; case activity Miranda – “Custodial Interrogation”   Martin was arrested for disorderly conduct and handcuffed at the scene of an otherwise unrelated incident (¶6, id. n. 6). Search of his car yielded a gun. When an officer asked him, Martin denied ownership. The officer then prepared to arrest Henry… Read More

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Questions Presented (from Scotusblog):  1) Did the Seventh Circuit violate this Court’s precedent on harmless error when it focused its harmless error analysis solely on the weight of the untainted evidence without considering the potential effect of the error (the erroneous admission of trial counsel’s statements that his client would lose the case and should plead… Read More

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State v. Donald W. Jorgensen, 2008 WI 60, reversing unpublished decision For Jorgensen: Martha K. Askins, SPD, Madison Appellate Issue/Holding: ¶21      Wisconsin Stat. § 901.03(4) (2003-04) recognizes the plain error doctrine. [3] The plain error doctrine allows appellate courts to review errors that were otherwise waived by a party’s failure to object.  State v. Mayo, 2007 WI… Read More

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State v. Ronell E. Harris, 2008 WI 15, affirming unpublished decision For Harris: Ralph J. Sczygelskis Issue/Holding: Various discovery and evidentiary violations amounted to harmless error, whether taken singly (¶¶41-59, ¶87-90) or cumulatively (¶¶109-113).Harmless error discussions are largely fact-specific, and this case is no exception. But it is noteworthy for its recognition that the “court… Read More

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State v. Thomas S. Mayo, 2007 WI 78, affirming unpublished opinion For Mayo: Keith A. Findley, UW Law School Issue/Holding: ¶47      In determining whether a constitutional error is harmless, the inquiry is as follows: “‘Is it clear beyond a reasonable doubt that a rational jury would have found the defendant guilty absent the error?'” State… Read More

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